Summer has come and gone and the cooler weather has prompted a bit of magic: the bright greens of summer trees have become a blazing expanse of reds, oranges and yellows.

It’s not magic, of course (hello, science!), and it’s short-lived, lasting just a few short weeks. But following that initial burst of colour, after the red and orange leaves of the sugar maples and red maples have dropped to the ground, a warm yellow glow remains—the golden encore.

This second act can persist into November and is courtesy of trees like the yellow and white birches, trembling aspen, balsam poplars and tamaracks, the only local coniferous tree to turn yellow and drop its needles in the fall.

The stunning colours are a side effect of a tree’s preparations for the cold winter months. Chlorophyll, the chemical in leaves that gives them their green colour and produces nutrients for the tree, starts to break down in the fall as those nutrients are moved into the trunk. The bright colours of the leaves, which had been masked by the chlorophyll, were there all along.

You can enjoy the golden encore just about anywhere in Muskoka, as well as its adjacent provincial parks, Algonquin and Arrowhead. Go for a drive, take a hike, or head out onto the water for a different vantage point. Find suggestions for driving tours at Muskoka Tourism and Explorers’ Edge.

While we’re talking leaves, and now that there are lots of them on the ground, it raises the question: to rake or not to rake?

The answer is somewhere in the middle. You can definitely forgo the rake, but that doesn’t mean leaving a thick layer of leaves on your lawn either unless you want dead grass in the spring. The best solution is to mulch it: run it all over with a lawnmower and either leave the bits where they lay or you can then get the rake out and drag some of it into your garden.

More tedious, but an equally good option, is to compost it, either yourself or through a green bin program in your municipality if one exists.

What you should never, ever do is rake them, bag them and toss them. Organic matter in landfills doesn’t have adequate oxygen to decompose properly and ends up releasing methane, a greenhouse gas.

Fall means Thanksgiving, too. Here’s to plenty for you to be thankful for this month and beyond. Happy fall!